Reps. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) released the following statements today in response to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) announcement that they are beginning the time period to file a claim for women and Hispanic farmers and ranchers who have suffered discrimination by the agency.
"The USDA's announcement is encouraging, but more should be done to help women farmers who were discriminated against in the past. And we must take steps to ensure it does not happen again in the future," Rep. Eshoo said. "I remain committed to working with the Administration to right this wrong."
"I am encouraged that the Administration is doing the right thing and ensuring that women farmers and ranchers do not suffer discrimination in the future," Rep. DeLauro said. "While I continue to have reservations about parts of this claims process, I am glad to see it begin so women farmers and ranchers who have suffered discrimination in the past can finally see justice. I will continue to work with USDA to ensure a comprehensive, effective outreach process and ensure that all women are treated fairly."
DeLauro and Eshoo are longtime advocates for female farmers and in 2009 introduced the Equality for Women Farmers Act to address the issue and end USDA's practice of discrimination. The legislation would establish a system to compensate women who have been victims of USDA gender inequality and ensure female farmers seeking loans in the future are considered on an equal basis with male farmers. The Congresswomen have also written multiple letters to the USDA and Department of Justice to highlight the discrimination and implore the Administration to rectify past injustices with a fair and effective claims process.
The most recent Census of Agriculture identified more than a million female farm operators, approximately 300,000 of which are principal farm operators. That amounts to 14 percent of the 2.2 million farms in our country. An estimated 43,000 female farmers have been discriminatorily denied more than $4.6 billion in loans and servicing from USDA. The claims process announced today makes up to $1.33 billion available for cash awards and tax relief and as much as another $160 million available for farm debt relief.
If you are a female or Hispanic farmer who has been discriminated against please call 1-888-508-4429 or go to farmerclaims.gov. Eligible farmers and ranchers can file claims between September 24, 2012 and March 25, 2013.